Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Doumar's - Norfolk, VA

Exterior of Doumar's

Growing up in West Ghent proper, I frequented Doumar's as a child, sometimes with my father and often with friends. Doumar's became especially important in middle school when most of my childhood friends took up a string instrument, which became quite frightening and deafening for our parents. For us, orchestra concerts meant a trip to Doumar's afterward. We would pile in the 'back room' which was a corner room with four tables, booth seating and some chairs. We ordered lots of French fries, shakes and ice cream and probably tortured the poor souls that had to wait on us. I am sure our parents were close by, reprimanding us as needed. I remember eating a lot of fries and ice cream, not much else.

Doumar's itself is historically significant for Norfolk, but its newsworthy claim to fame is the invention of the ice cream cone. First setting up shop in the Ocean View Amusement park, Doumar's became known for its cones and barbeque. After a hurricane destroyed the amusement park in 1933, the Doumar family built a location on Monticello Avenue, where the diner still stands today. My parents frequented Doumar's in their younger years and when I was in high school, still playing the violin and going to Doumar's, one of the waitresses remembered my father from when he ate lunch there everyday in his 20s. She even remembered what he ordered, 'The Usual' which, for him, was the infamous Taylor Pork Roll, sliced & grilled pork on a roll w/cheese, lettuce, tomato & mayo. Back then waitresses roller skated to the cars! While there are not roller skates today, you can still enjoy service to your car with Doumar's drive-in style parking and overhangs.

Laine and I decided it was time for a visit to Doumar's. To eat in our car or inside was the big decision of the day. Laine had never eaten inside and I have done both, so inside it was. It is definitely a step back in time. I arrived first and sure enough, Doumar's was as busy as ever. We thought about sitting at the counter, but it was filled up so I grabbed one of the last open booths. We did not get a spot in the former orchestra part-ay room, but we got a seat and at this busy time, that's all that mattered. When Laine arrived, it was literally standing room only. A waitress with some great eye shadow colors came to take our order. I decided to try the fried egg on toast with cheese. In all these years, I have never had that, amazingly. I also had to have some fries and a chocolate shake for old times' sake. Doumar's BarbecueFood comes out fast and get ready, all sandwiches are wrapped in plastic with a toothpick holding it intact. The only silverware I received was a long plastic spoon for my shake. No problem though, this is Doumar's and I was not looking for white tablecloths or cloth napkins. My fried egg and cheese on white bread was exactly as named, no frills. It was good, but if you are a hungry, hungry hippo, you better order three or four, as this is not a filling 'entree'. The fries were as good as I
remembered. A little ketchup and pepper and my meal was complete. Truthfully, the chocolate shake was the nuts and bolts of my meal, the exciting part. Like when I was a kid, I only ate 'real' food to get to the dessert. If my mom had let me, I would have foregone the real and gone straight for the treats! You can order your shakes 'old fashioned drug store style' which is thin, but for me, thick is the way to go for a shake. Theirs are still homemade just like they were years and years ago, and on this day, the shake was as good as ever. They have vanilla, strawberry, pineapple and banana as well (shakes and soda
floats). Egg Nog is offered as a shake, soda float and ice cream flavor when in season. I had one last year and it was absolutely delicious and by far my favorite Doumar's flavor. I told Laine we have to go back when Egg Nog appears on the scene.

Doumar's is not fancy and offers burgers, dogs, barbeque, the Taylor Pork Roll, breakfast all day, fantastic shakes, soda floats, ice cream cones (of course) and a variety of ice cream sundaes, such as the Ringo and Strawberry Willy, which you can customize to your liking. A fun gift is to buy the souvenir jar of two dozen cones. I bought these for someone last year and they were a huge hit. Ask and Doumar's will give you print out of an article about the diner and the cones. I wanted to include this since the receiver of the gift lived in another state and had no knowledge of Doumar's. Without that, someone might wonder why you are giving them two dozen cones. Gotta show them why they are

Do the Dou and get on over to Doumar's and get yourself a Taylor Pork Roll, barbeque and some cones. Even if it is busy, the wait is not going to be long.


I don’t have a colorful history with Doumar’s, so I see it a little differently that someone who can tie in happy childhood memories. To me there is only one reason to go to Doumar’s, to get the Doumar’s experience. That means seeing all the kitsch, taking a step into the past, and of course looking at the cone making machine every time. It is not where I go if I want a great lunch. To me, the food is secondary to the experience.
Doumar's Interior
As Alex mentions, I had never been inside before, and was looking forward to the adventure. I was not disappointed. I have seen a lot written by the GP (general public) about how dirty it is. I didn’t see dirty. It’s just OLD. Tables, floors, counters, etc. are all wiped down and clean. We sat next to a window ledge and picture. They had been dusted and cleaned. Stuff is just worn out and old in some places. The service is snappy and clipped. Know what you want, and be prepared to order. Servers are not rude per se, but they are slamming busy at lunch time. When the average meal is going to total somewhere around $5, you are going to make your tip money on quantity, not quality. Get ‘em in, server ‘em quick, get ‘em out.

Doumar's Shake
I usually get a burger there, which is about the size of a happy meal burger, but thought I would go out of the box and order the Barbecue. I chose the “minced w/slaw, our best seller”. Millions of people can’t be wrong, right? It was just okay, served on bread similar to grocery store Mary Jane buns, light on the slaw. Like Alex, my beverage was the show stopper. I ordered an Ice Cream Soda, Orangeade w/Sherbet (2 dips). Ice Cream Sodas are a rarity now and hard to find on any menu. Wowza! It was over the top! Topped with whipped cream and a cherry in an old fashion soda glass; it made the entire trip worthwhile.

You see a real mix of demographics at Doumar’s. From senior citizens to seniors in high school, it seems to have an appeal that crosses age boundaries and prices that fit most budgets.

Doumar's is open Monday through Saturday all day and is located at:
1919 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517.
No reservations needed or taken.
Doumar's Cones and Barbeque on Urbanspoon


chele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michele said...

You really have some great memories of Doumar's. I've only been once and we ate in the car. I thought it was pretty cool.

damico said...

Brianna says:
I love Doumars.......My daughter turned me on to this when she was about 7 years old. Her friend's dad took her and her friend there and we have been going ever since. The atmosphere is what it is about but their ice cream sodas are delicious. Everybody should experience Dourmar's at least once.

Michelle said...

Dad and I used to go there all the time! love Doumars! =]

webgirl said...

That place is one of a kind. Last time I was there we saw Abe Doumar. You'll see him sometimes cleaning off the countertops and taking photos with customers. Great idea about the ice cream cone gifts.